GAYLORD - The Gaylord softball team is ranked No. 1 in the state in Div. 2 and has dominated opponents for most of the season. Leading the way for the Blue Devils are two sisters, Aubrey and Jayden Jones, who are both among the top 10 recruits in the country in their respective class.
Jayden Jones is a junior this year who’s committed to Virginia Tech. She’s ranked as the No. 6 player in the country in the class of 2024 by Extra Innings.
Her sister Aubrey Jones is a sophomore with a host of Div. I offers to choose from. Extra Innings ranks her as the No. 9 player in the country in the class of 2025.
“Jayden has an ability to lift everybody else’s play around here,” said Gaylord head coach Tony Vaden. “Aubrey is extremely competitive and really leads from the circle. They’re always setting a standard. They have a high standard for themselves and I think everybody on the team has adopted that.”
While the Jones sisters are immensely talented, they’re also just the tip of the iceberg for this year’s Gaylord team. Junior Alexis Shepherd is committed to play collegiately at the University of Toledo and Alexis Kozlowski, Braleigh Miller and Addison Wangler are all committed to play at Ferris State. The Blue Devils roster is loaded with talent from top to bottom.
“We definitely have a target on our backs because a lot of people are trying to beat us,” said Aubrey Jones. “But we expect to win this many games because we go about it like no one else does so this is kind of what we expect.”
The team’s talent and winning attitude has made for an easy transition for Vaden, who’s in his first season as the Blue Devils head coach.
“I inherited an extremely talented team which always makes it easier,” he said. “I was also fortunate to get the third Jones, [Jayden and Aubrey’s] dad is over here helping me coach.”
Greg Jones, Jayden and Aubrey’s father and an assistant for Vaden this season, has been coaching many of this year’s Gaylord players ever since they were little kids.
“He holds the bar really, really high for me and my sister,” said Jayden Jones. “He doesn’t let us settle. He pushes us to be our best every day and doesn’t accept less. So I think that’s how me and my sister have grown into the softball players we are today.”
The Blue Devils have been largely dominant on their way to a 27-2 record so far this season. Their only two losses were by one run to two of the top 10 teams in the state in Div. 1.
But this dominant high school team didn’t come together overnight. With Greg Jones as their coach, this group has played and grown together since they were eight years old. It’s a group that’s had success at every level, from winning a Little League state title to winning national travel ball tournaments.
“All these girls, I consider them like daughters,” said Greg Jones. “We spend a lot of time, have a lot of memories, have a lot of blood, sweat and tears together. It’s a very meaningful time for me and I hope they feel the same.”
For the Jones family, high school softball is a part of a lifelong obsession with a game. It’s a game that’s opened doors for lifelong friendships, given the family opportunities to travel the country together, and been a key part of their relationships with one another.
“I think softball has brought me and my sister really close,” said Jayden Jones. “We share a lot of memories together on the field for sure and I feel like when we’re on the field together, we play better.”
“There’s a lot of times when we talk life in the batting cage and those are moments that I will always cherish,” said Greg Jones. “Those are some of the best times and memories that I’ll have forever. It’s a lot of what we do as a family because of the time commitment that’s involved but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”